You’re scrolling the Instagram news feed and your perfect friend posts another perfect yoga selfie.
Do you feel calm? Or do you feel your emotions being pulled in 1000 different directions all at once? And do you remember how or why you opened Instagram in the first place?
You’re browsing Youtube. The “recommended for you” side bar offers you another video.
Do you feel in control when click or tap that video without a moments hesitation? Or do you feel like your mind is being tugged and prodded against your will?
You’re browsing Facebook and come across an outrageous and controversial video. The comments section of the video is a toxic cesspool of ridiculous, unfounded opinions and pure hate.
Do you calmly shake your head and move on? Or are you triggered into an hour long keyboard war?
You need social media mindfulness And you need it now.
You probably associate the word “mindfulness” with the following image:
But what if I said you could practise mindfulness here?
Mindfullness is about being present. It’s about being centred within yourself and non- reactive to what’s going on around you. It’s about noticing the non-stop chatter that’s constantly flooding through your mind. And it’s about being aware of what you’re doing and what you’re thinking.
Contrary to popular belief, mindfulness doesn’t have to be practised sat cross-legged on a mountaintop. It can be practised at anytime in any situation.
You’re getting angry at the traffic in front of you. You can focus on the present moment and realise the pointlessness of your anger.
You’re getting bitter at your friend’s success. You can focus on the present moment and create space around the negative emotions flooding into your mind.
You’re about to open Facebook for the 7th time today. Instead, you can come to the present moment and realise that you’re doing this for no reason whatsoever.
Yes. Mindfullness can also be practised while we use social media. And actually, it desperately needs to be. On an individual and a societal level.
Before I give you the 3 essential practises of social media mindfulness, first you need to understand the reality of the situation when it comes to social media.
Social Media - the situation as it stands
Social media isn’t on your team. (Nor is your smartphone)
Behind every social media platform, thousands of the world’s smartest attention engineers are working their hardest to keep you on their platform for as long as possible.
We live an attention economy. The longer social media has your attention, the more money they make. Having your eyeballs on their platform means more money for their advertisers and more of your data to sell to other companies.
Social media is a powerful attention monster. Everyday it eats the attention of millions of individuals around the world and then coughs out money for the business owners.
And it’s not only the platform itself. Every single news story and advertisement on the newsfeed is a click funnel that profits by making users click. Not to mention your friends posts and stories, which utilise your natural urge to compare yourself to other human beings (See social comparison theory)
For most people, the drawbacks of social media far outweigh the benefits. But you can be different.
First. You need to stop underestimating what you’re up against every time you open social media. Understand the reality that social media isn’t on your team. Understand that social media has an agenda that doesn’t match up with your own.
Second. You need your own techniques to counter-act the techniques used by the attention engineers.
You need to implement the 3 essential practises of social media mindfulness.
The Conscious Click
Know Your Intention
If you think any of the techniques below are silly or unnecessary, it’s only because you’re underestimating what you’re up against when you use social media.
1. The Conscious Click
The Conscious Click: Pausing for a full 5 seconds before you click (or tap) anything on social media.
It’s that simple.
If you see a video on the Youtube side bar, hover your cursor over the video. Don’t click yet. Pause. Wait. Become present. Is this click worth my time? Do I want to click this?
If you have 4 notifications on Facebook, wait before you check them. Pause. Breathe. Become present. Then decide if they’re worth checking or not.
When using social media, every single click should be done consciously.
This also includes each scroll of the news feed. Scroll once. Then pause for 5 seconds. Breathe. Then scroll again.
In these 5 seconds, you can change your mind and decide not to click.
Overtime, you will develop the ability to hover your cursor over your notifications and then decide not to check them. Once you’ve developed this ability you’re in control of your social media use instead of the other way around.
This simple change in behaviour will reverse the frantic unconscious behaviour patterns you’ve developed. The behaviour patterns that lead you down social media rabbit holes and waste hours and hours of your time.
If you find yourself clicking things without knowing why you clicked them, you’ve failed.
Try implementing the conscious click into your online behaviour and notice how your state of mind shifts.
Instead of letting the algorithms decide what you click, implementing the conscious click means that you decide.
90% of social media is garbage. Don’t hand out your clicks so easily to those who don’t deserve it.
(The exact same rules apply for each time you tap your smartphone with your finger. The Conscious Tap if you will)
2. KNow your intention
Know Your Intention: Deciding on a purpose before opening social media and then sticking to it.
Social media platforms are a dense jungle and your intention is your compass.
Social media is full of clickbait, attention seekers and addictive notifications. Without a compass you’ll get lost in the digital jungle.
What is your purpose for opening social media?
To check messages from your boss? - Great. Head straight to the messages and check those messages. Do not scroll the newsfeed. Do not stalk your friends profiles. Do not check your 3 notifications. Fulfil your intention. Then get out.
To see the new video from your favourite Youtube creator? - Awesome. Navigate straight to the video. Watch it. Then close Youtube. Do not click any recommenced videos. Do not check notifications. And for god sake don’t read the comments. Fulfil your intention. Then get out.
To post a new tweet? - Super. Go directly to your Twitter profile. Post the tweet. Then close Twitter. Do not check notifications. Do not scroll the twitter feed. Do not check the trending hashtags. Fulfil your intention. Then get out.
Sometimes you will stray away from your intention. Don’t worry. Notice that you’ve strayed. Then return back to your intention.
Your intention is the difference between you using social media and social media using you.
Without intention (your compass) you’re going to get lost in the digital jungle. And who knows how long it will take you to emerge back out again. 10 minutes? 20 minutes? 1 hour? 3 hours?
And this digital jungle is filled with hypnotic snakes that will try to steal your attention and your time. So don’t look them at them. Keep your eyes on your feet and follow your intention to the end.
The analogy of the hypnotic snake in the jungle might seem silly until you consider the last time you opened Youtube to watch a single video and woke up an hour later wondering what the hell happened. Was this not a hypnotic state?
There are some benefits to getting lost in social media. You can sometimes stumble upon valuable content. No problem. If you want to decide to let the algorithms take you into the rabbit hole then feel free. As long as this is your intention.
3. Watch yourself
Watch yourself: Continually checking in with yourself while using social media.
Social media has the ability to pull your emotions in a thousand different directions at once. Jealousy. Anger. Laughter. FOMO. Pride. Desire. Intrigue.
There are pockets on social media that are filled with positivity. But for the most part social media encourages negative emotions.
Mindfulness is the practise of watching your thoughts and emotions from a 3rd person perspective. It’s noticing when you feel negative emotions and understanding why you’re feeling them.
So you’re scrolling Instagram and you’re having negative feelings about your current life situation. You need to notice that. You need to notice when social media is affecting your emotions in a negative way.
Notice the negative emotions. Then figure out why you feel that way. You’ll probably realise that the reason for your negative emotions is that you’ve spent the last 10 minutes seeing images of people who appear to be doing better than you.
Watching yourself also applies to your body position. What’s your body posture like? Are you slouched over your phone? Is your neck aching? Poor posture results in a poor mental state.
See yourself from a 3rd person perspective. What do you look like when you’re craning your neck over your phone?
You need to continually check in with yourself. Because the truth is, social media is dangerous for your mental health.
Just because social media use is common, that isn’t a sign that it’s harmless.
If you don’t believe social media can have a negative effect on your mental state, you need to see this graph:
You need to understand that the chances of experiencing negative emotions while using social media is incredible high. So you need to implement the technique of watching yourself if you want to counteract the effects that social media will inevitably have on you.
In his book Power Vs Force, David R Hawkins demonstrates the levels of consciousnesses human beings go through and scores them from 0-1000.
Here is where social media tends to fall on this scale:
Mindfulness teachers believe that people absorb the “frequency” of consciousness that they surround themselves with.
If you surround yourself with “frequencies” from 200-400 you’ll absorb them and become a happier person. If you surround yourself with frequencies between 100-150 (The frequencies usually present in social media), you’ll absorb them and they will put you in a negative mood.
Instagram is full of frequencies at 125. News articles often operate at 100. The Youtube comments section is frequently at 150.
Occasionally, there are spaces on social media that operate between 200-400, but in general social media is in the 100-150 range.
If you want to see the transfer of negative frequencies happen before your eyes, just read through the Youtube comments section and watch the toxic behaviour spread from person to person.
Negative energy is contagious.
Then consider the fact that most of us continually check social media throughout the day. Every single day. And then consider the long term effects of that.
Notice when social media gives you negative emotions. Focus on the present moment. Stop. Breathe. Understand why these negative emotions entered your mind. Then continue.
The simplest way to understand the affect social media is having on your mindset is not to use it for 24 hours.
Commit to not using it for a full day and simply notice how you feel. I guarantee you’ll notice a change.
Right now. Social media is slowly turning the world crazy. It’s probably causing an increase in depressive episodes among teenagers. It’s politically polarising countries around the world. It’s confusing the entire planet about the nature of truth.
You need social media mindfulness. And so does the entire planet.